Kilkenny are back. There’s no need to whisper. They bellowed it yesterday afternoon themselves with a dominant second-half display. TJ Reid, Walter Walsh and Paddy Deegan led the line as the Cats were crowned Allianz Hurling League champions.
After two games, there were suggestions that change was needed at the helm of Kilkenny. Fast-forward two months and Brian Cody is sitting pretty.
Following his 20th national title as manager, Cody was quick to disregard the talk that started after they lost their first two games of the campaign.
“Well, how anyone can know who was going to be league winners in late January? I certainly had no idea. Like I said at the time, I had confidence in the players that we had, the younger players coming through.
“I knew we were going to be competitive. There were fierce hard matches coming up. We had to go to Waterford, Tipperary were coming here, Wexford were coming here. When we did that, then we had a quarter-final, which was a savage battle above in Offaly. Again last Sunday down in Wexford Park. So [we were] tested every single day we went out. Did I know we were going to pass all those tests? I didn’t, but I knew we were going to be very very competitive, and that we’d be hard to beat.”
The story of the game was the showing of TJ Reid. The Ballyhale Shamrocks star scored 0-15, and put in a heroic display. Cody reserved special praise for his marksman.
“He’s been really consistent for us. And, I mean, that’s the level he’s at. TJ is on the team a long time now, an outstanding hurler, and he has to step up… he has to be the player he’s capable of being, not just a player who is tipping away at maybe scoring five or six points. He’s capable of playing at that level. That’s his ability, and his application has been terrific. His fitness levels are huge as well, so he’s reaping the benefits of the work he’s putting into it.”
With Cody back masterminding national titles, Kilkenny are well and truly back. They now face the long run-up to their championship opener with Dublin on May 13.